Health care is an essential part of any thriving nation, through the below report, LEADERS MENA magazine is shedding light on the progress achieved in the health field in Saudi Arabia using official data from the Saudi government.
This report highlights the Kingdom’s efforts to provide comprehensive health care for all individuals in society in an accessible and simple manner. You will be informed about the various health facilities and healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically the types of vaccines available and precautionary measures to be taken.
The report also highlights the Kingdom’s care of the elderly, mental health care, and the services available to promote it, while also addressing the appropriate services to rely on for health care measures during Hajj. Additionally, more extensive information will be supplied throughout this segment concerning chronic diseases, telehealth, health insurance, and foreign healthcare.
According to official state data, health regulations in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aim to provide comprehensive health care for all people in a fair and accessible manner. The Kingdom, represented by the Ministry of Health, provides an integrated network of health care services covering all regions of the Kingdom. Health care in the government medical facilities is provided for citizens for free and based on a new health care law that meets the needs of the health sector.
Health Goes Digital in KSA
Digital health is one of the most essential transformation programs operated by the Ministry of Health’s, Vision Realization Office. The program aims to improve general health by providing better health care services and raising the value of health care. The Ministry of Health has worked to develop a clear and concise strategy and plan to achieve these goals in alignment with the strategic objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. The Digital Health strategy provides full functionality and expanded interoperability.
The system focuses on telehealth, cybersecurity, system certification, and advanced functionality including Artificial Intelligence, analytics, and models of care. Digital technology plays a significant role in supporting the delivery of the Digital Health Vision and implementing this effective strategy, it creates the right conditions for the Ministry of Health’s digital health ecosystem to expand. The digital healthcare system aims to transform the delivery of healthcare through the expansion of implementation of technology, to deliver safer and more efficient healthcare services to the society of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Provides health care services to more than 31 million citizens and residents, as well as several million visitors during Hajj and Umrah through the health facilities that include medical cities, specialized hospitals, universities, military hospitals, and primary care centers. On the ministry’s website, there is an interactive map showing all of the government medical facilities’ locations, and other information needed such as their working hours.
The Kingdom established the Saudi Patient Safety Center (SPSC), which serves as the main enabler of the national strategy of patient safety and has contributed to raising the percentage of hospitals that achieved the American Standard for Patient Safety Culture from 30% in 2018 to 60% in 2020.
The Kingdom expanded the specialized healthcare service to improve the quality and efficiency of the healthcare system while expanding coverage of specialized healthcare services through a range of centers, programs, projects, and hospitals, which include launching the Dysplasia National Program via Telemedicine, launching psychiatry departments at multiple hospitals, launching Al Amal Hospital in Ha’il with a capacity of 200 beds, launching the North Medical Tower at the Northern Borders Province with a capacity of 300 beds, and launching some specialized services at King Salman Hospital in Hai’l.
Healthcare During the COIVD-19 Pandemic
The Ministry of Health recognition by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for its efforts in activating E-Health during the pandemic due to its ability to launch several e-applications to promote the efficiency and quality of health services and raise the satisfaction of beneficiaries, develop additional services in e-applications such as enabling early detection of diseases through self-evaluation via the “Mawid” application, which registered 67 million appointments by the end of 2020, providing more than 2.1 million medical consultations remotely through the “Seha” application, and enhancing response time for emergency calls from 16 minutes in 2019 to 14.43 minutes in 2020 via the Paramedic applications
Then Ministry of Health received recognition from the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for its effort in activating E-Health during the pandemic by developing additional services in electronic applications, such as:
Enabling early detection of disease through self-evaluation via the “Mawid” application, which registered 67 million appointments by the end of 2020.
Providing more than 2.1 million medical consultations remotely through the “Seha” application.
Enhancing response time for emergency calls from 16 minutes in 2019 to 14.43 minutes in 2020 via the “Paramedic application”
The Kingdom received 100,000 daily calls to 937, responding to 24.6 million calls and 7.6 million medical consultations by the end of 2020.
Healthcare Facilities Licenses
The kingdom worked on a unified and comprehensive system for all health licensing services, which is characterized by direct technical integration with all relevant government agencies. The owner of the health facility can obtain the initial approval for licenses for health facilities, the issuance of the final license for health facilities, licenses to practice the profession for health practitioners, and the health practitioner delegation service by registering on the (Seha) platform for electronic health services
Healthcare for People with Disabilities
Regulations within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia state that all people whatsoever there conditions deserve the highest degrees of healthcare without discrimination based on disability; in addition, it aims to provide them with the well-being and quality of life for themselves and their families. As part of the regulatory framework for the rights of people with disabilities, the kingdom states the Disability Law and The Authority for the Care of People with Disabilities, as well as encourages institutions and individuals to contribute to charitable work. Providing preventive and rehabilitative services, including preventive genetic counseling, conducting various laboratory tests and analyses for early detection of diseases, and taking the necessary precautions. Medical rehabilitation services such as physical and occupational therapy are provided to disabled people to help them to become active members of society, and help them to support themselves as possible.
A priority card for persons with disabilities to access health services easily and easily through the electronic registration system for obtaining facilitation cards. Primary Healthcare has launched an initiative dubbed «We Are with You» for serving the deaf and overcoming the difficulties to communicate with doctors.
Public Health and Emergencies
The Kingdom improved the emergency medical care services aimed at facilitating access to healthcare services by giving access to the service through a range of options.
The General Directorate of Civil Defense
The Kingdom’s government is concerned with managing health crises and disasters. Due to this concern, a specialized center has been established, known as the National Health Emergency Operations Center. It is a strategic project that aims to strengthen health crisis and disaster management processes at national and local levels thus raising the level of coordination between the concerned departments in the ministry.
The center also provides decision makers with accurate information in cases of crises to benefit from them in cases of early warning. The center operates around the clock and has 20 branches nationwide, followed by hospitals and health facilities within the scope of each branch. All branches are equipped with the latest equipment including wall screens and communication devices linked to each other by the program technology system (web EOC), and it enables the user to raise reports and data and receive directions via means of communication such as phone lines, wireless devices, and satellite communication devices. The most prominent specialties of the center include linkage with locations of human gatherings, such as schools, markets, airports, and others.
The center’s effort is doubled in cases of millions of crowds during the Hajj and Umrah seasons. The employees of the center are divided into two areas including the following:
The first area is dedicated to monitoring accidents and reports.
The second area ensures the readiness of health facilities to deal with crises and disasters as the team prepares the daily reports related to the bed capacity in each hospital, the number of blood units available, human cadres available and their specialties, the number of ambulances, and the available stock of basic medical materials.
Types of reports received by the center
Reports of mass casualties, including car and plane accidents, or injuries resulting from natural events such as floods and earthquakes.
Reports related to epidemic diseases and food poisoning.
Reports related to the safety of health facilities.
Means of Action
The specified branch manages the supervision of the accident or crisis by engaging the abilities of its hospitals and centers, while the main center in Riyadh follows up on the procedures and monitors the details to study and analyze them within a program, which is linked to the competent authorities.
If the crisis or disaster exceeds the hospital’s capacity, the concerned branch will supply the capacity, provide the needed staff, and secure materials from other hospitals in the region.
If the situation exceeds the potential of the region, the branch in Riyadh manages the crisis by moving and transferring the capabilities between the regions.
Saudi Arabia has a range of emergency and ambulance numbers for specific health cases or rescue services. Listed below are some significant emergency contact numbers:
kingdom Emergency (without the SIM card) 112
Civil Defense 998
Traffic Accidents 993
Natural Disasters 966
Emergency – Office of Deaths 990
Criminal Investigation 992
Flying Ambulance 123
Mother and Child Health
The Kingdom cares about the family and its members, especially the health and security of the maternity and childcare, and therefore, the health and security of the society.
The Maternity and Childcare
The kingdom pays attention, through MOH, to maternal and child health by providing important educational information and health services in the maternity and childcare sections in its health facilities, such as the importance of breastfeeding, and the health of new-born, and premature infants. The services also include periodic maternal screenings for the early detection of breast cancer and locations of early breast cancer screening clinics.
Additionally, the government pays attention to Child Health Awareness, such as Children’s Dental Care, Child Nutrition, etc.
It is a medication or surgical procedure to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Abortion is generally illegal in Saudi Arabia, with a narrow exception. In cases where the pregnancy is a physical or mental threat to the mother, and the fetus is less than 120 days old, the mother is allowed to have an abortion after the approval of two specialized doctors. This process Is confirmed by a decision brought forth by the medical committee, formed following the term and conditions specified by the executive regulations of the system, including the following:
The Senior Scholars Decisions No. 140, dating back to 06-20-1407 AH, states the following:
It is not permissible to abort a pregnancy during any stag other than cases presented with legitimate reasoning and by certain limits.
It is permissible to abort the pregnancy if the pregnancy is within the first trimester, which consists of the first 40 days, due to possible harm.
It is not permissible to abort a pregnancy until a reliable medical committee decides that the continuation of the pregnancy poses a danger to the mother’s safety.
After the third trimester, completing four months of pregnancy, it is not permissible to abort the pregnancy until a group of trusted specialists decides that the remaining the foetus in the mother’s womb may cause her to die, after all, means saving the foetus life has been exhausted.
Women’s Health Rights
Women’s rights are aligned with the Sharia rulings, legal fatwas from the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Ifta, the ruling laws and regulations, in addition to any paragraphs mentioned following the Sharia rulings and laws. A few of the women’s health rights include the following:
Preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic examinations for infectious and non-infectious venereal diseases. Confidentiality and privacy in sexual diseases are emphasized, except in cases highlighted by legal laws and procedures.
Acquiring health and legal advice in cases where a woman wishes to begin the process of reproduction and obtain methods of contraception following medical supervision and trained specialists in health centers and hospitals. This health service is offered free of charge in health centers and hospitals associated with the Ministry of Health.
Providing a safe environment, guaranteeing childbirth decently and respectfully, at all times, thus preserving the woman’s dignity, while also guaranteeing her right to choose the doctor who provides her maternal care. The medical team must possess specialized skills in natural reproduction, in addition to the presence of qualified staff specialized in handling complications, if issues were to arise.
Preserving the woman’s privacy and covering intimate parts (awrah) during childbirth, by providing private rooms and appointed spaces to conceal her from other patients.
Women aged 18 years and over have the right to accept or refuse to sign medical permission for their surgical work and do not require consent from their guardians.
Health care during Hajj
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia provides free and integrated health services to pilgrims during Hajj and various seasons through a network of hospitals and health centers that have been established for this purpose, in addition to hospitals and centers operating throughout the year. The Ministry also provides a range of different treatment services as well as minor and critical surgeries, inpatient services, and pharmacological vaccines for pilgrims and Umrah performers.
Hajj Visiting Manpower Participation Service: This service enables medical and technical staff specialized in some delicate specialties to apply for participation as part of MOH’s hajj visiting manpower. This service targets health practitioners required from inside and outside the kingdom to benefit from them during hajj season for operating MOH’s health facilities in the holy sites, as well as enhancing some hospitals in Makkah and Madinah. Interested applicants should register and submit their required documents via the service’s page so that the Ministry can select qualified cadres with required specialties according to what will be announced.
Saudi Patient Expenses and Accompanying Regulation
If the patient is referred for treatment outside the region of his residence inside or outside the Kingdom, the Ministry of Health shall bear the expenses of patients and their companions during the treatment period, according to the regulation the expenses of Saudi patients and their companions referred for treatment outside their areas of residence.